City officials are deploying community outreach workers to Louisville schools and neighborhoods in an effort to prevent more gun violence impacting the city’s children after a fatal shooting at a school bus stop.
Louisville’s politicians, police and faith leaders gathered at Metro Hall on Thursday to outline steps they are taking to address mental health and retaliatory violence in response to the drive-by shooting, which occurred early Wednesday morning.
Two teenagers were injured and another, 16-year-old Tyree Smith, was killed while waiting for a school bus to Eastern High School. The shooting at the intersection of Dr. W.J. Hodge and West Chestnut Streets in the Russell neighborhood was the latest act of gun violence, which has already killed more than 20 children in Louisville this year.
At Thursday’s press conference, faith leaders announced a $10,000 reward for any information leading to the arrest of the person or people involved in the shooting. Corrie Shull, a pastor and JCPS District 6 school board member, said the reward was “a means to draw the line.”
“While we cannot rid our city entirely of the violence that is plaguing us, we will do all that is within our power to ensure that our children, every child in this city, can at least stand at school bus stops safely,” Shull said. “School bus stops should be safe zones and every member of our community should respect them as such.”
Shull said over 60,000 public school students are picked up at bus stops across Louisville each morning.
Officials In “Crisis Stabilization Mode”
The city’s Office of Safe and Healthy Neighborhoods (OSHN), which was created in response to a 2012 triple homicide, has assigned its eight outreach workers to some JCPS schools and the Russell community. They are also contracting with Peace Education’s Pivot to Peace Program, which works in hospitals to intervene in the lives of gunshot victims and other people “living with a high risk of violence.”
Monique Williams, director of OSHN, said her office is currently in “crisis stabilization mode,” attempting to stop any retaliatory violence.
“We know that within that first kind of 72 hours [after a shooting], that’s the most critical time when there could be potential retaliation,” she said. “Our outreach workers are continuing to work the angles and the things they’ve learned to ensure that nobody is making any decisions to do something that they shouldn’t do from an emotional place.”
Williams said outreach workers attended a community vigil held at the school bus stop Wednesday night, to provide support and violence prevention resources. OSHN is also hosting a “safe haven” event Thursday night at the Moore Temple Church of God and Christ where mental health professionals, grief counselors and faith leaders will meet with people impacted by gun violence.
Mayor Greg Fischer said residents have flooded his office with phone calls, asking how they can get involved in ending Louisville’s gun violence crisis. Officials want people to work within existing programs, rather than trying to create new ones, he said at the press conference.
“We’re trying to get people to focus on safe and healthy neighborhoods,” Fischer said. “We’ve got a robust response right now with lots of ways to get involved.”
Williams said OSHN can connect people to grassroots violence prevention groups. There are also other initiatives like the ambassador program, which teaches residents about conflict resolution skills and how to organize members of their community to address issues. City officials allocated an additional $1 million in federal pandemic relief to expand that program in August. Williams said OSHN also offers “stop the bleed” training to teach people who show up to a shooting how to provide emergency care.
Williams said she thinks it’s unfortunate that it took an incident like Wednesday’s shooting to spark people’s outrage, but she is happy more residents are now paying attention and interested in making an impact.
“I think the more that people understand about violence and how to prevent violence, I think that’s where the change lies, because then we are talking about a change in our strategies and what we are addressing,” she said. “We’re understanding that we are addressing, particularly with young people, traumas. And traumas beget more traumas.”
Police Provide Few Updates On Shooting Investigation
Louisville Metro Police Chief Erika Shields said the investigators are following several leads, some of which are the result of “multiple tips from the public.” She declined to provide any specifics about the ongoing investigation into who might have been involved in the shooting.
Police recovered a Jeep with Illinois license plates on Thursday that may be connected to the shooting. It was found on fire in a St. Matthews apartment complex. The vehicle is now being processed and analyzed by LMPD’s Homicide Unit. Shields said police now believe the vehicle was stolen prior to Wednesday’s shooting.
Shields also pleaded with the public to remain involved in the case.
“If anyone is in the area of where the vehicle was recovered or where the shooting occurred, please, please, please check your cameras, see if there’s any footage that may be of use and, should you identify anything, please reach out to LMPD,” she said.
Officials urged anyone with information related to the shooting to call (502) 574-5673.